USDA names 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program winners

The United States Department of Agriculture announced the selection of 30 university students who will attend USDA’s 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum as winners of the USDA Student Diversity Program. These undergraduate and graduate students will receive a weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., capped off by their attendance at the AOF, the USDA’s largest annual meeting, held Feb. 22 to 23 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

“These students are the next generation of agriculture, and it is important for the USDA to support their training as future agriculture professionals,” said USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson. “At the Ag Outlook Forum, these students will hear current leaders share their vision for agriculture as they begin to map out their own careers.”

Now in its 11th year, the USDA Student Diversity Program gives undergraduate and graduate students real-world learning opportunities in contemporary agribusiness, scientific research, and agricultural policy. The program selects 20 university undergraduates and 10 graduate students based on essays on agricultural careers and challenges. These students major in agriculture-related studies, including business, economics, communications, nutrition, food science, and veterinary studies. Finalists are selected from land-grant universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and non-land-grant colleges of agriculture. During their visit students will take part in a USDA briefing and discussion of career opportunities with agriculture leaders in academia, government, and industry, as well as tour the nation’s capital.

Among the winners, Justin Keay, an Environmental Sciences graduate student at Lincoln University, wrote on the topic The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture Over the Next Five Years. “Researchers, extension professionals, educators, NGOs, policymakers and government officials across the globe must embrace the need to educate producers at every scale of production, in order to begin a global and comprehensive transition to climate-smart farming.” Emma Jobson, a Ph.D. student studying Plant Genetics at Montana State University, sees “depleted resources and feeding over 10 billion people” as significant challenges. Esha Tariq is an Agricultural and Resource Economics major at the University of Maryland. In her essay on Agriculture as a Career, she envisioned helping “find new markets for our agriculture commodities.”

Undergraduate winners include: Stephanie Alvarado, California State University, Chico; Cameron Bradshaw, Kansas State University; Brittany Carter, Auburn University; Ciara Cox, Cornell University; Alexis Doon, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Victoria Gastelum, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Keia Jones, Virginia State University; Keyla Lara-Leiguarda, University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez; Caitlinn Lineback, Purdue University; Jaime Luke, University of Missouri; Tobechukwu Opara, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Javier Medina Sanchez, University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez; Esha Tariq, University of Maryland College Park; Raymond Thomas, Prairie View A&M University; Jasmine Thompson, Alcorn State University; Kyleigh Tyler, Utah State University; Jabril Wright, North Carolina A&T State University; Wesley Yu, Oregon State University; Ramiro Zavala, California State University-Stanislaus; and Haylee Zwick, Ohio State University.

Graduate winners include: Maria Cuellar, New Mexico State University; Dillon Davidson, Oklahoma State University; Allen Deutz, South Dakota State University; Catherine Dobbins, University of Arkansas; Kanita Hutchinson, Tennessee State University Emma Jobson, Montana State University; Justin Keay, Lincoln University; Daniel Munoz, New Mexico State University; Kenton Sena, University of Kentucky; and Sara Webb, Clemson University.

The Student Diversity Program is supported by academic and government institutions and corporations dedicated to promoting the education of the next generation of agriculturalists. This year’s sponsoring organizations include the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Farm Credit. USDA sponsors include the Agricultural Research Service; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Office of Advocacy and Outreach; and the Office of the Chief Economist. Now in its 94th year, the Agricultural Outlook Forum is the USDA’s largest annual meeting, attracting as many as 2,000 attendees from the U.S. and abroad. The forum highlights key issues and topics within the agricultural community, offering a platform for conversation among producers, processors, policymakers, government officials, and non-governmental organizations, both foreign and domestic. Learn more at